Cardinals’ David Johnson: ‘I love getting the ball’
TEMPE, Ariz. — Aside from those dealing with injuries, perhaps no Arizona Cardinals player needed the bye week more than running back David Johnson.
Through eight games, he’s been on the field for 502 out of a possible 597 snaps on offense. His 84.1 percentage is bested only by offensive linemen D.J. Humphries (100), A.Q. Shipley (99.5) and Jared Veldheer (96.6) and receiver Larry Fitzgerald (91.8).
And among players at Johnson’s position, only Tennessee’s DeMarco Murray comes close to the 500 snap-count with 495. Melvin Gordon of San Diego ranks a distant third with 416.
“That break was really good. I really needed it,” said Johnson, who played 561 snaps in 2015. “With me, it definitely helped rejuvenate. It helped me get my body get back to healthy; some of those aches, some of those pains. Get back to close to 100 percent as possible.”
Of course a convincing case can be made Johnson had to be so involved in the Cardinals offense in the season’s first half because he was their best, and at times only, weapon to move the football.
Still, this week head coach Bruce Arians admitted Johnson has been used more than expected.
“Hell, yeah. Without Chris Johnson, for sure,” he said. “We are trying to monitor (his touches) the next few weeks so he can make it all the way through and get Andre (Ellington) some more touches.”
That’s all well and good, but it’s hard to argue with the results when the ball is put in Johnson’s hands.
For the season, the 24-year-old leads the NFL with 1,112 yards from scrimmage, ranks fourth with 705 rushing yards and is tied for third with eight touchdowns.
Even more impressive: Johnson’s scrimmage yards total is the most in franchise history through the first eight games of a season. His eight consecutive games with 100+ scrimmage yards marks the longest such streak in franchise history and also represents the longest active streak in the league.
Plus, Johnson was just named the NFC Offensive Player of the Month, averaging 145.2 yards from scrimmage in his five games in October.
“I love getting the ball. I love getting the touches, so it doesn’t really matter to me,” he said, referring to Arians’ comments. “My biggest thing is when my number is called and my name is called that I’m able to do it at a high level, making sure that I’m doing it the best I can.”
Johnson was maybe at his best against San Francisco on Oct. 6. In that game, he had 185 yards from scrimmage, recording 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries to go along with 28 receiving yards on three receptions — a performance that earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
And wouldn’t you know, the Cardinals face the 49ers on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Johnson is almost assured of another jaw-dropping effort, right?
San Francisco enters Week 10 with the league’s worst overall defense, including defending the run. The 49ers have allowed at least 240 rushing yards in each of the past three games and an overall average of 193.0 yards this season.
Right now, they’re on pace to allow 3,008 rushing yards. No team has given up 3,000 rushing yards since the 1980 New Orleans Saints.
And last week, that 49ers run defense surrendered 158 rushing yards to New Orleans’ Mark Ingram, the seventh straight game San Francisco had allowed a 100-yard rusher, which according to the Elias Sports Bureau, is a first in NFL history.
Johnson stands ready to extend that mark.
“They’ll probably change (their defense) up a little bit more (from the first meeting). We’ll have to see when the game comes,” he said. “Obviously, I always expect to have a good running game with the blockers we have, not just on the line but receivers and tight ends. I always expect to come out and show a good ground game.”
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